When winter sowing goes bad

pixie_louMay 17, 2012

My grandfather died about 15 years ago. He used to grow giant pumpkins. When my grandmother died 1.5 years ago, while cleaning out the house, I found a yogurt container full of grandpas giant pumpkin seeds. I've tried to sow these seeds last summer, but the birds or squirrels kept getting into the containers. So I attempted to use the winter sowing method this year - protect the seeds in a sealed container. However, the squirrels still found a way to get at those seeds!

While they were at it, they decided to attach my garlic chives containers. Note the miniblind tag, the dumped out potting mix and the top of the container in the yard. I still haven't found the bottom of the container.

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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I hope you still have some of those special seeds left. That is so neat that you had grandparents who gardened. Those darn squirrels! They do love pots with soil in them. I've thought that they seem to be more interested in any newly disturbed soil. I've read that is some kind of signal to them, that maybe another squirrel buried a nut there, or some such theory. I've had them ruin newly planted, just arrived iris tubers and take a couple of tubers with them and leave the others all chewed up.

Could it be that you just planted the pumpkin seeds this spring? Because I have usually put my winter sowing containers out in January or February and so they are usually there frozen all winter, so the squirrels have left them alone come spring. I also use milk jugs and soda bottles with flaps cut out of them, so it is not as easy for them to get into them.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 4:58AM
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That's such a shame pixie_lou. I use recycled gallon milk jugs for winter sowing and in year 3 have yet (touch wood) to see any critter damage. I arrange my containers like PM2 in rows on my concrete breezeway up against the garage & house walls. I do have bird & suet feeders hanging in the crabapple tree about 20 ft. from the breezeway which probably keeps the squirrels & chipmunks occupied & prevents them from paying too close attention to the pot ghetto. Not so with any containers where they diligently bury a lot of seeds which then sprout.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 2:14PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Maybe this thread should be titled "When squirrels attack"...??

I've come to really dislike squirrels. They are just too darn destructive - and it's not like they are eating anything, they are just destroying.

If you stil have some of those seeds left, I would try to sow using a bigger, sturdier container, such as the milk jugs mentioned above. I use those, and although squirrels are always digging in my pots and out in the new plantings in the beds, I've yet to have them do any damage to the milk jugs. or maybe if you use the smaller containers again, try covering the whole thing with a milk crate or something similar which the squirrels can't overturn.

I'm a bit confused - did you actually sow these earlier in the winter and you already had seedlings? (Which hopefully you were able to save??) Or did you just recently sow them and no seedlings? If you just recently sowed them, I wonder if there's still time to try again this season? I'm not familiar with growing pumpkins so I'm not sure of the season or starting times.

So sorry for the mess, and good luck!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 6:52PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Sorry to hear about your pumpkins! Hope you have some extra seeds. That is not surprsing that the chipmunks or squirrels dug up those seeds. They would find pumpkin seeds irresistable! However, they might have done you a favor with the garlic chives. They reseed like crazy and are difficult to weed. The onion chive, Allium shoenoprasum, is much better behaved and there are many beautiful Alliums that don't spread like that.

In five years I can't think of any incident when a critter got into a winter-sowing container (slugs get in sometimes though!). But last year I potted a small American hazelnut seedling I found in the garden, and somebody dug it up and ate the nut part, and unfortunately the seedling dried up before I could get it replanted. Also, I collected some Walnuts one year, to sow a few, and the squirrels got into them.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 4:19AM
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Thanks for commiserating. I do have more seeds - it was a quart yogurt container I found. I planted the originals on 10 may. Since I didn't have the seeds stashed with my WS seeds - I found the seeds a little late. I since replanted about 20 seeds in a gallon vinegar container that I have bungee corded to my deck!

These seeds have a lot of sentimental value. The youngest grandchild always got the largest pumpkins. We have photos of every grandchild as an infant sitting a top the biggest pumpkin in grandpas arms. And even a photo of the first great grandchild.

I know these seeds were not stored under ideal conditions, but at the same time I don't think they were exposed to extreme heat, cold, or moisture. I don't think I've been able to keep them in soil away from critters long enough to germinate. At this point I have no idea what I would do if I ended up with 20 plants!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 8:54AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Pixie Lou, I know I saved pumpkin seeds a long time once. I can't remember how many years, but it was well beyond what I would have expected for them to still be viable. It was the Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin seed. I didn't store them with any special conditions, just in a paper envelope in a drawer. I was shocked when they germinated. So fingers crossed for you. If you could just get ONE pumpkin from it, you could put up some fresh seed!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 6:34PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

So glad you still have seeds, and still have time to sow more! Hopefully the vinegar jug will be a tougher nut to crack for the squirrels!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 7:02PM
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How cool to have a tradition like that! Fingers crossed for you. I have two cats so no squirrels seem brave enough. I used to have a dog and this one squirrel had deemed him his arch enemy and would chatter and throw things at the poor dog. Brave thing would get real close. But my cats have been known to chew on plants.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:16AM
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